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TikTok, Other Chinese Apps Banned

TikTok, Other Chinese Apps Banned

Context:

Days after India banned 59 Chinese apps for engaging in activities which are "prejudicial" to the sovereignty and integrity of the country, Beijing urged New Delhi to immediately ‘correct what it called discriminatory practices’ against Chinese companies.

Background

  • India banned 59 apps with Chinese links, including the hugely popular TikTok and UC Browser, for engaging in ‘activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, and security of the state and public order’.
  • Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology declared that the move will safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users and ensure the safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.
  • The IT ministry also mentioned that it has received many complaints from various sources, including several reports about the misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and covertly transmitting users' data in an unauthorized manner to servers that have locations outside India.

Summary of the Debate

Arguments for Ban on Data stealing Chinese Apps

  • It will protect the security and integrity of the country.
  • It will protect the territorial integrity or sovereignty of the country.
  • It will protect the data of hundreds of millions of Indians, which will secure the privacy of our people and the security of our nation.
  • Economic aspect: A lot of revenue has been gone out to China because of these apps, this will stop now.
  • A message to china: It is not going to be the business as usual as far as our relationship with China is concerned.
  • In addition to security, this decision is going to provide a huge impetus to our own tech companies. There are a number of apps in the Indian market which can easily replace what is being taken from here.

Difficulty in implementing the Ban on Apps

  • From the practical aspect, there are different modes for the apps to come back. But from the legal aspect, they have to move to the court or to the ministry for lifting the ban and this is at a very nascent stage.
  • The ban is just an interim order from the ministry. The procedure goes under section 69 of the Information Technology Act and also the 2009 rules.
    • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has the power to block certain websites, Urls, and mobile apps.
    • The situation is at a nascent stage but later on the situation will come when there has to be a request by a nodal officer of the specific department which will see the issue, then there would be formed a committee to check whether the national security and integrity of the nation is compromised or not.
  • These banned apps are from China and China itself is very strict in censorship. It has a Great firewall or golden shield which is the Chinese government’s internet censorship and surveillance project.
    • China has ambiguous agreements and contracts with companies on data sharing and also has banned Twitter.
    • So it would not be easy for the Chinese companies to claim their rights in an Indian court.

Impacts of the Ban

  • There are three segments that are going to be affected by this ban.
    • The content creator or influencer
    • Builder of the Apps
    • Content consumer
  • The content creator or influencer: New Delhi’s decision will hurt Indians, too. Banning TikTok will hurt thousands of Indian content creators who depend on the Chinese app for their livelihoods.
  • Builder of the Apps: Indian companies such as Roposo, a local alternative to TikTok, and many other tech companies may see a surge in interest and new users. Chrome is still the most popular browser app in India, and companies such as Google may also benefit from the blocking of UC Browser.
    • Building alternative apps is not difficult but getting that kind of adoption is the real challenge. For new apps getting followers is something that would need trust and that comes only with time not overnight.
  • Content consumer: For consumer having an app which is running on ads model, privacy is just a myth. In this case, these apps were from China and there were reasons to block them because there was a question of the national security but that that is different from privacy issues.
    • Consumers would face the same privacy issue whether its Chinese app or it is an Indian or American app.

State Sponsored Data Mining

  • When a person starts a mobile app, he/she gives the company the access to ‘Biometric, fingerprints, retina prints, daily activity information, travel history, GPS location, national identity number, personal identifying information like who you are, what do you do, what do you know, what do you have.
    • Companies work on this data and their business runs on this.
  • The question is not just about the data mining for commercial benefits but the intent behind the data mining.
  • When we compare the US and China the picture became clear. In the U.S.A, companies like Apple does not share their users’ information with the government and cite individual privacy.
  • But in China, the state has more power, and companies are in compliance to data sharing. Companies like Tiktok, Alibaba are connected to the communist party of China in some ways.

Way Forward

  • We need to have data localization laws in place, so that there would be little better access, government has better hold and Individuals become more secure about where their data is kept.
  • Privacy is past, our data is easily available. We need to be careful about this and go with trusted apps.
  • It is an opportunity really as far as the Indian I.T sector is concerned to make in India, for India and for the World.

Main points made by the Guests:

1. Ashok Sajjanhar, Former Ambassador:

  • It will protect the security and integrity of the country.
  • A lot of revenue has been gone out to China because of these apps, this will stop now.
  • It is not going to be the business as usual as far as our relationship with China is concerned.

2. Praval Singh, Vice President, Marketing, Zoho Corp:

  • Privacy is past, our data is easily available. We need to be careful about this and go with trusted apps.
  • All three segments- Content creator or influencer, Builder of the Apps and Content consumers are going to be affected.

3. Khushbu Jain, Cyber Law Expert:

  • The ban is just an interim order from the ministry. The procedure goes under section 69 of the Information Technology Act and also the 2009 rules.
  • We need to have data localization laws in place, so that there would be little better access, the government has better hold and Individuals become more secure about where their data is kept.

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